Thursday, August 31, 2017

Shoe Fly

We used to get a new pair of Weejuns and a pair of wingtips and some Jack Purcells every fall for the new school year. If you were feeling flush, you broke bad and added some desert boots to your shoe wardrobe.

A nice pair of Clarks® Desert Boots would last through the years, and with rubber soles, they gave you the added advantage of being able to sneak in the house really late after the watershed patrol chased everyone out of Loch Raven.

It's desert boots that I thought of when I saw this article about the oldest shoe ever located. It seems to be suede, and was found in Armenia, and radiocarbon dating testing shows the shoe to be 5,500 years old - older than Betty White and Dick Van Dyke combined!

Image result for areni-ONE shoes
"Could I see it in a black, size 7?"
At first the shoe, found among a cache of other really cool old junk in a cave in Armenia in 2008, was thought to be maybe four or five centuries old, but when the people who dug it up couldn't find a sales receipt or UPC code on the inside, they investigated further.  And in that same archeological dig, they dug up the oldest preserved human brain, seeds from nearly 40 types of fruits, cloth, metal knives, dried grapes, and the oldest winery in the world.

This old winery caused quite a Ripple of interest, if you dig it.

The shoe is roughly the size of a current woman's size 5, maybe a 6 if you stretch it first, but no one, male or female, would probably wish to slip it on because, well, because the very substance that preserved the leather this long was...several layers of sheep dung. 

You can strap on your Nikes and go see the shoe at the History Museum of Armenia. Don't be sheepish about it!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Being a baby about it

I know they are doing marvelous things in the field of human procreation these days, just as I know that many marvelous humans do their procreation in a field.  You want to get a room back there?

Again, I know that science has made great strides, but the fact remains that every single person on the face of Earth has, or had, a mother. So did all the married people.

You can't deny it, whoever and wherever you are; you had sets of atoms from two humans who might or might not have even known each other, getting together and getting all fertilized and so forth.

So if it follows that every person walking around today was borne by a pregnant woman, why do some people get so bent out of shape over the shape of a pregnant woman?

Latest example comes to us from sunny Augusta, Georgia, where Laura Warren anchors the news on WRDW-TV.  She's expecting a baby, but she didn't expect a nasty voicemail from some random viewer slamming her appearance. 

"Please go to Target and buy some decent maternity clothes so you don't walk around looking like you got a watermelon strapped under your too tight outfits. Target's got a great line of maternity clothes in case you've never heard of such a thing. You're getting to where you're being disgusting on the TV."
Laura's first reaction was shock and hurt feelings, to be slagged by another female in this way.

"Did she just call a pregnant person disgusting? What kind of...I am only at week 20 of this? Am I going to have to deal with this crap another 20 weeks? Should I have my consultant or my boss call her and tell her tailored, form fitting clothes look way better on air than baggy ones, especially when pregnant? Is that a WOMAN who called me?!? Is she a MOTHER?!?!? The freaking nerve," she writes in a blog post titled "Week 20: Sticks and stones.
I recall the same thing happening to a wonderful meteorologist in Philadelphia when she had the audacity to be pregnant with twins. The criticism and clamor for her to do her forecasts from inside a tent or something like it got so insane that she finally spoke out before going off to deliver two sweet bundles of joy.

Ms Warren says that since she shared this blasting voicemail, she has received plenty of encouraging messages from others in her town.

But it makes one wonder about who would say, "Where's the phone? I feel the need to call that woman on the TV and tell her she no longer pleases my finely-honed aesthetic senses and pass along some fashion advice from a woman who thinks TV anchors shop at Target."

I know, it was a woman who made this critical call, and that's horrible. I'm sure people in the public eye get this sort of deranged commentary from both genders.  

I'm just not sure why.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Your filthy, smart, phone

Quick question in my best Peter Marshall voice:

"Americans grab this 47 times a day. What is it?"
No, Donald, not that.  It's your cell phone you're plucking out of the pocket all those times, and while you're doing so, you are touching something that contains more cooties than the men's room at the Trailways station.

"Because people are always carrying their cell phones even in situations where they would normally wash their hands before doing anything, cell phones do tend to get pretty gross," says Emily Martin, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Well, ewww. 

TIME magazine carried the story the other day, and it said that your cell phone is much dirtier than you think, and it just sits there getting all germy all day, and then you pick it up to text Tex or call Callie or face your Facebook and your hands pick up those germs and then you pick up your Caesar Salad Wrap and you see where this is going...

And they (the science community) knew we would come back demanding scientific evidence on all this, so they studied the cell phones of high school students and found more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies, and who knows how many original germs.

More?  OK. Sun-baked science guys and gals at the University of Arizona say cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.

All right, you have my attention. And pass the Purell. 

According to the article, "Human skin is naturally covered in microbes that don’t usually have any negative health consequences, and that natural bacteria, plus the oils on your hands, get passed on to your phone every time you check a text or send an email. 

These dedicated Germ Hunters have found serious pathogens on phones, like Streptococcus, MRSA and even E. coli. Just having this gunk on your Samsung won't necessarily put you out sick, but, really, who wants them around?  And let's say someone coughs on their cell and they are coming down with strep throat or the flu and then three minutes later they thrust their phone at you so you can see the pictures from Uncle Martin's cookout.  Guess who gets sick next.

Image result for dirty cell phones
But wait!  No need to toss that expensive Motorola into the dumpster! Martin says one good way to avoid the cooties is to leave the phone out of the bathroom environment altogether.  

And it wouldn't hurt to mix some water with rubbing alcohol in a 60/40 combination and dip a clean towel in it before wiping off the phone now and then. You don't want to spray cleaner right onto the phone.

Oh! And Ms Martin and everyone else says to wash your hands, too! A couple of times a day would be nice.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Don't mess with Texas

Image result for unprecedentedThe United States is a big, big place. So big that when an virtually "unpresidented" natural disaster was brutally hitting its second largest state over the weekend, many of us in the other 49 states sat transfixed, and watched the live coverage.

Up to 50 inches of rain might fall in Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, by the time Hurricane Harvey gets the heck out of here this week (after overstaying its welcome by quite a bit). I'm writing this on Sunday evening, and as of now the death toll stands at 5, but with the worst really yet to come, who knows the total of deaths, property damage, and business losses?

Two thoughts keep bouncing around, and let's get the less enchanting out first. In 2012, when New York and northern New Jersey were poleaxed by Superstorm Sandy, it took three months to get federal aid to the area because it was argued over and opposed by people like John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, mediocre senators from...guess where?  Texas! Where they talked of secession and forming their own nation full of people wearing Stetson hats and spurs, and even wilder stuff on the men! And guess who just about broke their necks on Saturday, howling for federal funding to be sent to Texas posthaste to repair the damage of the damned Harvey? 

The sun doesn't shine on the same dog's behind every day, and when it's turn to be fortunate, it's only the right thing to share and help a neighbor.  Because you just never know when it's going to be your turn.

Image result for heb convoy harveyBut wash your mind with this.  People from all over the country are in east Texas, or on their way, to provide medical assistance, drop off supplies or aid in the search and rescue operations. When the call went out Sunday for people with boats to come to certain flooded locations to help get stranded Houstonians to higher ground, a veritable flotilla came floating up. And a chain of grocery/pharmacy supermarkets called HEB got a convoy on the road at once to help where held was needed.

That's the America we knew. Too bad it often takes a horrible turn to make it reappear, but maybe if we all act right, it will stick around.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Rerun: "B" is for Bongo

How long has it been since you saw someone playing a set of bongo drums?

Just asking rhetorically, because many of us have never seen the sight of someone beating the hell out of a pair of little drums from Cuba (by way of Africa) held between the knees.

Drum historians, of which there are not too many, trace the bongos back to late 19th-century Cuba, where the influence of African music was added to the local flavors by recent immigrants from Central Africa. The little drums became a part of various Cuban musical forms such as nengón, changüí, and son.

By the 20th century, Havana became a tourist destination and Americans who had visited the Cuban capital brought the music home with them. Sometimes, travelers even brought souvenir bongos home with them, handing them to the kids when they got home ("Lookit! I broughtja somethin'!") just before the kids went up to their room and mastered the hand drum technique in a matter of days, if not weeks.

James Dean, man.

And it became the instrument of choice for guys like James Dean and Marlon Brando to bring to parties in the 1950s to sit around and brood over. Like the bagpipes, it takes no musical training to play them as amateurs.

Marlon Brando, man.

Marlon Brando, man.I suppose the heyday of the bongos came in the 1950s, when it became illegal to have a beatnik hootenanny (a gathering of Bohemians where coffee flowed and authentic folk songs about horses named Stewball were sung by bearded young men, and when they were finished, everyone snapped their fingers instead of applauding) without someone whaling away on a set. There was a hit record called "Bongo Rock" by Preston Epps, but his efforts at a followup hit floundered, with tunes such as "Bongo in the Congo", "Bongo Rocket", "Bootlace Bongo", "Bongo Boogie", "Flamenco Bongo", "Mr. Bongo", and "Bongo Shuffle" all being soundly rejected by an increasingly discerning audience.

A group called The Incredible Bongo Band did a new version of "Bongo Rock" in 1973, and I facetiously mentioned the other day to a good friend that it was the recessional music at our wedding that winter. No, it was not, but one main reason why Peggy still puts up with me, almost 43 years later, is that I never owned or played a pair of bongos in our home.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show, August 26, 2017

The first two photos today are related in an interesting way. Last weekend, the Los Angeles Angels baseball club was in town to play the Orioles here as the celebration for the 25th year at our groundbreaking stadium continued. Both teams had commemorative patches on their jerseys. The 25th anniversary was the focus of O's uniform patch on the bottom, with the big "25." On top is the patch the Angels were wearing, also with a big "25," but that one saluted the late ballplayer Don Baylor, who began his career as an Oriole, and wore #25 before being traded away. He achieved his greatest fame wearing that number as an Angel, and recently passed from multiple myeloma in his native Texas. He was a fine player, coach and manager, and he is missed dearly.
All the cool hepcats use abbreviations in writing now, like OMG and IKR. Well, one look at this water slide and I'm all NFW - no freakin' way!
Speaking of great Orioles of the past, on the right is 1966 American League MVP and genial slugger John "Boog" Powell, barbecue entrepreneur at the 25-year-old ballpark these days. On the left is Oakland A's outfielder Herschel Mack "Boog" Powell, whose parents had the foresight to give him a nickname to live up to as he developed into a ballplayer. 
"What we have in mind here is noodle soup for 400,000."
Like so many things in life, lightning is often a) beautiful b) majestic c) dangerous d) destructive  and e) misspelled as "lightening."
Remember the days when you couldn't open a magazine without cutting your finger on one of these blow-in cards for a record club, which gave you 127 albums for one thin dime and then kept sending them even after you moved to get away from the monthly mailing of Conway Twitty vinyl?
Ask 50 old-skool country music fans, "Who's your favorite country singer?" and I'll wager 45 of them will say "George Jones." I found this cool picture of the doorway to "The Possum's" gravesite at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Fort Smith, AR. The quote is from Jones's great 1974 hit "The Grand Tour," and I thank the splendid Instagram page "We Hate Pop Country" for the photo, because there is nothing worse than cold grits, warm beer, or fake country music. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Do you like Epping? Don't know. I've never Epped.

Facebook seems to be catching on.

And there is more going on in Zuckerbergville than eclipse photos, pictures of cute kittens, and memes that go to bizarre lengths to prove some ephemeral point.

For instance, let's say you're swimming in your swimming pool and the ladder breaks.

Now, let's say you can't get out of the pool without the ladder.

Stuck In Pool For 3 Hours, She Posted SOS To Facebook Page. Help, In Minutes
This is Leslie Kahn, 61, of Epping, New Hampshire.  Her fun in the pool on August 11 went down the drain quickly when she couldn't get out of that pool.  For three hours, she tried to find a way.

Image result for prune fingersDon't you hate it when you've been in the water for that long and you get the prune fingers?

Anyway, she didn't have her cellphone (it was in the house) and she couldn't hoist herself up over the edge...but she had her iPad out there on a chair, and she had the pool pole, so she used the latter (because she had a broken ladder) to drag the chair over, and she typed out a message on her town's chat page.

It's called Epping Squawks, and she typed "911!" and described the jam she was in, and in short order, neighbors came over and got tools and fixed the ladder and all was well again.

Ms Kahn is a breast cancer survivor, and told the local TV news that there are times to be the helper and there are times to ask for help.   

"You get through whatever life throws at you, and you ask for help. And be prepared to help others, and that's the way life is supposed to work," she added.

You know how we always hear that people in New England make a lot of sense?  It looks like it's true!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A one-carrot ring

I once consulted a fortune teller who told me I would have more money if I stopped wasting it on fortune tellers.  I paid her 20 dollars to read my tea leaves and guide my future, but I didn't listen to her advice.  What did she take me for, a fool?

No. She took me for 20 bucks.

But I guess if you live to be 84, everything comes back to you...if not your memories, at least your engagement ring.

Say hi across the northern border to Mary Grams, late of Armena, Alberta, Canada. 13 years ago, Mary was weeding her garden on the farm her family has farmed for 105 years when he lost her engagement ring in the dirt.

She never told her husband Norman that she lost the ring, so Norman went to his reward five years ago without knowing that the ring was in the ground.

And then! recently her daughter-in-law Colleen Daley went out to dig up some carrots for dinner, taking her dog Billy out to the carrot patch with her.

And she dug up some carrots...and guess what one of the carrots grew up around!

Colleen said she pulled the carrots and noticed that this one looked a bit strange. She almost fed it to Billy the Canadian Carrot-Eating Dog but thought better of it at the last moment and threw it in the pail with the others. Later, washing the produce for dinner, she saw the ring and knew it was the one her MIL had told her husband about losing.   

So they hopped on the phone and called Mrs Grams. 

"I said we found your ring in the garden. She couldn't believe it," Daley said. "It was so weird that the carrot grew perfectly through that ring."

Grammy Grams rushed over and tried on the ring and it fit perfectly, just like the day her late hubby slid it on her finger.  

"We were giggling and laughing," she said. "It fit. After that many years it fits."

Over the years I have lost my composure, my nerve a time or two, and my mind at least once.  If you find them in your garden, I'll be right over.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Chicken Dance

Say, with football season about to kick off, as it were, who remembers last year's Super Bowl, won by a team from around Boston somewhere, quarterbacked by a concussed male model, and led by Coach Crankypants?

And who remembers the team that lost the game, blowing the largest Super Bowl lead ever?  That's right! Your immortal Atlanta Falcons lost the game, and it was doubly tough on both them and their fans and fans of the game all around the world who felt awfully deflated by losing to the dreaded Beantowners.

But there is plenty of reason to feel good in the ATL these days. They're fixin' to open their brand-new $2 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Here's the part that has a lot of people down South scratchin' their heads. You have to figure that they'll have a Chick-fil-A among the dozens of food options at the new ballpark, right? I mean, the company headquarters is a big roost in Atlanta, even though they spread their wings and sell their sammies all across America.

Well, they do have a CFA stand at the MB stadium, and WTH do you think?  

It's not going to be open on Sundays! Chick-fil-As are always closed on Sunday

The only non-Sunday home game for the Falcons this year is a Thursday night on December 7, so home fans will have to wait until Pearl Harbor Day night to enjoy stuffing Chick-fil-A® Nuggets, Chick-n-Strips™, Spicy Deluxe Sandwiches, and Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwiches down their necks.

Pictured below is the CFA kiosk at the new stadium, but we can only hope they aren't stocked with food for the September 17 home opener, because it will only sit until December.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Two great men gone

I really never thought Jerry Lewis was going to die. Born Joseph Levitch in 1926, he lived 91 years on this earth with his ego walking two steps in front of him.

He had to. His father was a largely unknown vaudeville comic who called himself Danny Lewis and he goaded young Jerry all the time, and just like the kid who grows in physical stature to eclipse (thought it would be a while before you saw that word again, didn't you?) his father, Danny sat back and watched as young Jerry went from doing a pantomime act to records to teaming up with Dean Martin to become the hottest act in show business for exactly ten years to the day, at which point Dean walked away.

Image result for jerry lewis

Jerry, for his part, would write autobiographical sketches that never mentioned Dean, but always told the story of how Jerry bought his dad a brand-new Cadillac one day, and showed up at the house to see his father accept the gift, the shiny black sedan with a big red bow on the hood.

And Danny Lewis, God rest his soul, expressed his gratitude with these crushing words: "So? You couldn't afford a convertible?"

Jerry once told a New Yorker writer, when things went wrong technically as he performed in a Dallas theatre, "You don't know what it's like! I have to live with Jerry Lewis!"

A complicated man, a talented comedian, a generous soul with problems galore. (Been a while since I saw that word, too!)

Image result for dick gregoryOver the weekend we also lost Dick Gregory, born Richard C. Gregory in 1932. I read his autobiographies as a teenager and always enjoyed his take on America's inability to reconcile issues of race and class. He used that most awful of racial slurs for the title of one book, and said he told his mother that for the rest of her life, whenever she heard someone using that term, she should figure it was just someone promoting his book.

Dick Gregory said he was once in a restaurant and had ordered a chicken dinner when a KKK member walked up and said, "Whatever you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you!"

And Dick Gregory, God rest his soul in eternal peace along with Jerry Lewis, leaned over his plate and kissed that chicken's rear end!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Heart of Darkness

I was hoping that Jerry Lewis and Dick Gregory would have lived to see today's solar eclipse, but alas, that will not happen.  
Left to right, this shows the path of the Eclipse.
Right to left, it's the path of the Lewis and Clark
Expedition, or Explorer or Escape.

I can't think of another thing to say about it. For the love of Pete, if you haven't heard by now that you aren't supposed to look up at the sun at the risk of blindness, where have you been?  Don't look up, for crying out loud! 

I have seen people asking where to get the official approved (but disposable, bear that in mind) eclipse viewing glasses, and there seems not to be a pair left to grab in Baltimore. So if you don't have them, join me on the recliner and watch it on TV.  

I mean, on your own recliner, to be precise.

I see the eclipse organizing us all into three groups. Most of us are in the big group of people interested in it enough to go out with our special glasses or watch it on network television with Charlie Rose explainin' what's happ'nin'.

The scientific community is launching airplanes, weather balloons and specially-modified camera-bearing woodpeckers to get data on an event that last occurred here before Jerry and Dick were even born! 

"The solar eclipse provides an opportunity for the public to experience a rare planetary phenomenon. Our live streaming from the atmosphere along with the other schools in the NASA space grant consortium will offer unique views in real time of this amazing event. It also provides an important set of conditions where we can study the effects of the sun on the atmosphere. As part of our research on eclipse day, we will collect data readings that scientists will compare against simulation results to understand our Earth."

That's the words of the science guys at USC. They are serious about this!

And then certain members of religious communities feel certain ways about it too. Back in ancient Mesopotamia, the citizenry figured that a solar eclipse meant a king had died.

Jerry Lewis starred in "The King of Comedy" in 1982, I'm just saying.

And, the ancient Aztecs sacrificed fair-complected people to ward off the demons of darkness. They believed these demons would come down to devour people.  

Excuse me, I have to run to the nearest tanning booth right this second. See you tomorrow, if there is one. I'm not letting some demon get me!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Rerun: Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap

It's funny how every time some tv or movie director wants to give us the ambiance of a quiet evening out under the stars, they always dub in the sound of crickets.  I don't know about the crickets who inhabit your neighborhood, but here around the Lazy 'C' Ranch, we don't hear them outside until mid-July, the earliest.  And even then, they stay pretty quiet until after dinner, unlike the chattering birds who start howling every day just before 5 in the yawning.

And tell me, how many nights have you lain awake, wondering why people like me fret about the correct past participle of "lie" just how doggone hot it is outside?  So, you get up; it's 3:22 AM, since you were going to get up soon anyhow, and you get about two feet across the bedroom floor when you find that thumbtack you dropped the other day.  Bare feet are the best thumbtack-finders you'll ever need. Hopping like a person with a thumbtack sticking out of their foot, you get down to the kitchen, to check the thermometer.  But by this time, you don't really even care that much what the temperature is outside.

Friends, there is an easier way. Just count the chirp of a cricket for 14 seconds - and you've got your watch right on your wrist! - and then add 40! So, if you count 30 clicks in those 14 seconds, the temperature outside is 70°! What could be easier?  That's for Fahrenheit.  The formula for telling the current Celsius temp is somewhat more confusing, which could not be more appropriate.

Buddy Holly & The Crickets
This is all explained scientifically somewhere, but here's a link to the Old Farmer's Almanac - so popular with all of us old farmers - that will let you listen to crickets chirping.   We don't know why crickets chirp more frequently as the temperature rises, but don't worry.  Crickets don't know why we can't rub our legs together and make a noise, unless we're wearing corduroy pants.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Saturday Picture Show Special "Eclipse Is Coming" Edition, August 19, 2017

You might have heard that there is going to be a solar eclipse this Monday afternoon. Go to the NASA page for the details from people who know what they're talking about. I'll see you there!

Safety tips!
This is a photo of the same kind of eclipse that we're going to have, but this was 1919, when the sun and moon were still in black and white.
You can count on royalty to attend the eclipse extravaganza - the Duke of Paducah will be there!
Make a poster of this and really get in the spirit!
So far the celestial events have not brought Bonnie Tyler back to the forefront as I thought might have happened...but you're sure to hear this 1983 goodie once or twice this week.
Totally serious here. DO NOT go outside and stare up at the sky to see the eclipse. Make yourself one of these contraptions, or watch on TV like most of us. Don't damage your precious eyes!